Volume 647, March 2021
|Number of page(s)||9|
|Section||Planets and planetary systems|
|Published online||02 March 2021|
Cyanogen, cyanoacetylene, and acetonitrile in comet 67P and their relation to the cyano radical
Physics Institute, Space Research & Planetary Sciences, University of Bern, Sidlerstrasse 5,
3012 Bern, Switzerland
2 Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
3 Space Science Directorate, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX, USA
4 Department of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, USA
5 Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, BIRA-IASB, Brussels, Belgium
6 Center for Space and Habitability, University of Bern, Gesellschaftsstrasse 6, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
Accepted: 4 January 2021
The cyano radical (CN) is one of the most frequently remotely observed species in space, and is also often observed in comets. Data for the inner coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko collected by the high-resolution Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer (DFMS) on board the Rosetta orbiter revealed an unexpected chemical complexity, and, recently, also more CN than expected from photodissociation of its most likely parent, hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Here, we derive abundances relative to HCN of three cometary nitriles (including structural isomers) from DFMS data. Mass spectrometry of complex mixtures does not always allow isolation of structural isomers, and therefore in our analysis we assume the most stable and abundant (in similar environments) structure, that is HCN for CHN, CH3CN for C2H3N, HC3N for C3HN, and NCCN for C2N2. For cyanoacetylene (HC3N) and acetonitrile (CH3CN), the complete mission time-line was evaluated, while cyanogen (NCCN) was often below the detection limit. By carefully selecting periods where cyanogen was above the detection limit, we were able to follow the abundance ratio between NCCN and HCN from 3.16 au inbound to 3.42 au outbound. These are the first measurements of NCCN in a comet. We find that neither NCCN nor either of the other two nitriles is sufficiently abundant to be a relevant alternative parent to CN.
Key words: comets: general / comets: individual: 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko / methods: data analysis
© ESO 2021
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